Tuesday, December 30, 2008

As You Probably Know, I Have Model-Good Looks

It's amazing the kind of shit that you can slip into a conversation if you preface it with "as you probably know". Because everyone is secretly a know-it-all and wants to nod maniacally and agree "of course I knew that already! duh!" Really, try it sometime.

Husbandrinka tried it on me the other day with a "as you probably know, I'm a perfectionist." It's a good thing that looking stupid has never bothered me, so I chocked on whatever I was drinking and then said "YOU? A PERFECTIONIST" and then laughed until I developed laugh lines of a woman twice my age. As you probably know, I have the skin of a newborn. (The FBI is investigating).

(By the way, when I told John this story, his response was "how can he be a perfectionist, he married you, didn't he?" I'm not sure that I will forgive him. But as you probably know, I have a big heart.)

So husbandrinka and I had a standard fight about whether or not he was a perfectionist and then we compromised on that he is a perfectionist at work and he doesn't like to burden his family with his perfectionism, so that's why I've never seen this side of him. I may be paraphrasing here a bit, but as I often tell him, if he wants to tell his side, get your own blog.

So a few days later, he is working from home and suddenly I hear "FUCKING SHIT!" (part of the reason that I hear this is because I am sitting right next to him) and I ask what's wrong, because as you may know, I am a caring soul and love to help people and he's fuming because the documents he needs are at the office. Because I love to strike when the iron's hot, I ask him if that is part of his perfectionism--having the wrong documents. So, I figure that I have a slam-fucking-dunk, and that he will bow to my wisdom, say touche and offer me some champagne to celebrate my verbal victory, but instead he says, "this is why I don't like to talk to you--you take things out of context."
"That "no" didn't sound convincing."
"I don't hate you."
It's a good thing, that as you know, I don't like to dwell on things.


Monday, December 29, 2008


When I was pregnant for the first time, my parents were overjoyed. And by “overjoyed” I mean “insane”. They hovered over me. They made sure that I was comfortable. They made sure that I was fed, and hydrated. You know, all the things that people who are functioning in society are generally able to do for themselves. And they wanted to make sure nothing upset me.

My husband was traveling one night and my parents came over for a deluxe dinner of Chinese takeout. Somehow the conversation turned to one of their favorite topics—how overweight many Americans are.

“Americans don’t understand hunger,” my father said.
“No, everything is too much here,"mama chimed in. "Did you see the ‘small’ coffee? Huge. And the large? A whole family can drink that!”
“In Russia, we lived through a blockade,” my father announced, referring to a period in the 1940s when the Germans surrounded Leningrad and would not let anything in, including food. Over a million people starved to death. My parents had not yet been born during this time, but their parents and grandparents lived through it and the memories haunted them. To this day, they are unable to throw out a crust of bread, so modern excesses offend them.

“People were starving,” my father continued, as I reloaded my plate with Sweet and Sour chicken. “People ate cats and all dogs disappeared from Leningrad. Your aunt Julia-“
“Stop it!” my mother yelled. “Don’t you dare tell her that story!”
“What?” my father was perplexed, “I’m just talking.”
“Yes, you’re talking. But you shouldn’t be talking to your pregnant daughter about this nonsense!”
“Nonsense?! It is a completely true story and part of our history. It is important.”
“Important? It’s upsetting and probably an exaggeration.”
“Hello!!” I waved a fork with broccoli in garlic sauce in front of them. “I’m still here! What about aunt Julia?” Who wasn’t really an aunt, but what am I a genealogical expert now?
“Don’t get upset,” my mother tried to soothe me. “It’s nothing.”
”Nothing. Her father tried to eat her when she was born, and to you it’s nothing. Normal behavior. It’s a girl! I mean, dinner! That’s how desperate people were.”
“Are you insane?” my mother yelled. “Do you want her to go into labor right now? Look how you’re upsetting our Marinka. Her chewing has slowed down considerably.”
“Well, maybe she can deliver the dessert.” My father threw down his napkin. Or maybe he didn’t throw it down, who the hell can remember. Really, I have no idea how people write dialogue.
“Don’t be upset,” my mother addressed me in a conspiratorial tone. “I don’t think that story is true.”
”WHAT?” my father howled, “are you telling me that my Uncle Boris didn’t try to eat my cousin Julia and if it weren’t for my Aunt Sofia protecting her daughter, there would be no cousin Julia?” Apparently my father is not the type of man to have the family folklore of cannibalism snatched away from him without a struggle.
“I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” my mother said. “But I don’t think that we should upset Marinka like that.”

I'm sure it speaks volumes to my moral character that I wasn't actually upset by that story. But to this day I can't stand when people coo over babies and comment how "delicious" they are.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lessons Learned: Kids and Allowance

Last year I decided to teach my children fiscal responsibility by giving them an allowance.  The "teach" aspect of it was a bit fuzzy because I thought that I would give them the allowance and the economic lessons would be self-taught.  This worked on many levels--the children would take the initiative, not unlike what I imagine the young Warren Buffet had to do and it would leave me with more free time to blog and drink.  The only fault with this fool-proof plan is that it didn't work.  As a matter of fact it was a disaster on every level imaginable, with the exception of the fact that it made all the parents at school hate me because their children kept saying "MARINKA IS A BETTER MOTHER THAN YOU! SHE GIVES HER KIDS ALLOWANCE!"

I decided to give my kids $10 a week, in exchange for their doing some minor chores like putting their dirty clothes into the hamper, taking their dishes to the sink and leaving me the hell alone every once in a while.  My son, six years old at the time, immediately negotiated to $20 a month, because he "likes $20 bills better."  Because taking advantage of a child's stupidity, I mean, naivetee is one of the economic lessons that I wanted to teach, I jumped at the opportunity.

But lessons were learned. And I am happy to share them with you.

1. If you spend your money, you can’t get it back.
Things so awry right away. I give my son $20 and he offers to pay for our lunch. “you don’t have to,” Husbandrinka says, as I order extra dessert while the getting is good.
“That’s alright,” my son reassures us. “I have nothing else to do with the money.” Despite the premonitions of him buying everyone rounds of beer flashing through my mind, I am proud of his generosity. The pride turns into a migraine over the next few days as my son comes to grips with the fact that his money is a distant memory and that he will not get another $20 for several weeks. That is SO UNFAIR. I didn’t know that I couldn’t get it back, you never told me. I hate this. I hate you. This is stupid. GIVE ME MY $20 BACK! After what seems like four straight hours of this loop, I give him $20, although to be fair, I would have given him $200 to shut the fuck up for five seconds.

2. One of the certainties in life is taxes.
We get up to the register to pay and my son is enraged because a set of markers that cost $12 is rung up to be $12.99. This is so unfair, he tells the cashier that she made a mistake and that she should be careful. The cashier is in between blowing her bubble gum and talking on her cell phone, so his charm is lost on her.
‘You have to pay tax,” I tell him.
‘Why?” he asks.
‘It’s the law.’
‘I don’t like this law. It’s stupid.’
‘Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s stupid. There are reasons for it.’
‘Like what?’
‘Like what? To..um.. help people.’
‘What people?’
‘People who…don’t have markers.’
‘Why don’t they have markers?’
‘Because they can’t afford them.’
‘Yeah, probably because they can only pay $12 and not the extra stuff she’s asking for.’

3. No one is going to give you an advance.
When I started this allowance nightmare, I told the kids that they would be responsible for buying their own stuff. I would no longer be buying Wii games or Pokemon cards “just because”. We go to Wii Central, where every Wii game costs $50 and immediately my son asks for $30 “from next month”. I tell him that it’s not a good idea to borrow from the future and he says, “So, you’re saying that you want me to steal.” He says this at the top of his lungs, so the security guard stiffens and moves towards us. In an effort to avoid arrest, I advance him $30. Plus tax.

4. You have to work hard to get a raise.
“Hey, how come I get $20 a month and my sister gets $10 a week?”
“Because you said that you wanted $20 a month.”
”But I didn’t know that it was so much less! That’s not fair!”
“It’s what you wanted. My hands were tied.”
“Yes, fine. Oh, and just so that you know—I now want $20 a day.”

5. Keep current on your accounts.
My daughter almost never asks for her allowance, and we ‘forget’. But when she does ask for it, it’s for some mortifying arrears, like the past ten weeks.
“I need $100, at least.”
”What do you mean ‘at least’?’
‘I can’t remember the last time you gave me my allowance. I’m guessing it’s about 10 weeks.”
“I don’t think it’s been that long.”
“Are you saying that I’m lying?”
“No, but-“
“You’re the one who’s always saying how fast time is flying. It may be closer to $200.”
“Let’s compromise at $150.”
“Ok. But I’ll need an advance on the next couple of weeks too.” Thank god she doesn’t know about interest.

So, I bet you’re thinking what I’m thinking—I should probably write a book about kids and money. I’ll see if Madoff is available to co-author it with me.


Friday, December 26, 2008

I love daytime television and Barack Obama! And also, I have my period

If there is anything that I love more than daytime television--from Oprah to Jerry Springer to The Price is Right to General Hospital, I don't know what it is. A perfect day is spent watching all of that. And reading articles about Barack Obama, who is a wonderful man and an inspiring leader. I am so happy that I voted for him, even though I supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries. And also I am getting my period soon. The rest of this post will describe all these events in detail and also provide makeup tips. Hopefully my family members have stopped reading at this point and are busy dialing mental health facilities for intervention, so I am going to switch gears a bit and tell you that yesterday, during Christmas dinner, my father scared the shit out of me by telling me that he is considering opening up a cat shelter where he would take in and care for homeless cats. The best part about it was that he said this in Russian, so my kids, husband and in-laws were clueless about what he said and why I was self-administering the Heimlich. Don't get me wrong, cats are good. But my father has severe allergies to cats, so this plan to take in, oh, a hundred of them, has Dr. Kevorkian written all over it. Is my father trying to end it all? Is this a scream for help? For some strange reason when I posed these questions to him, he seemed taken a back. Apparently, and secretly, his lifelong dream has been to help homeless cats. Please pray for us. Because if my father becomes one of those cat hoarders, you'll be begging me to blog about my period instead of the cats.

And that's why Barack Obama was my candidate and why General Hospital is the best soap ever!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bring in the Clowns

Every year, I take my family to the Big Apple Circus. Because apparently I suffer from amnesia.

It's a "low key" circus, although I'm not sure that's the official name--it's set up in a tent outside of Lincoln Center, so you feel all culture-ish like when you go. Like, you're going to the circus, but you could be on your way to hear the Magic Flute at the Met or see The Nutcracker at the ballet.

This year, I went with my papa, and the kids.  Husbandrinka was "sorry" that he couldn't go because he had a cold.  Poor thing had to rest in bed the whole afternoon.  

Here are my thoughts about this year's Big Apple Circus Experience:

The second my ass hits the seat, I start worrying that the whole thing is a firetrap.

Papa comments that the designers of the seats have not kept up with current assological trends, because the seats are pretty small. He says this while motioning to a very large man in front of us. Mortification, commence!

The tightrope walker is totally showing off. I don't understand why some people need to be "on display" like that.

Papa says that the circus in St. Petersburg (you know, in Russia) is better and that we should take the children to see it. Maybe not today, though.

I think that if I were a tightrope walker, I'd get really annoyed at everyone in the audience eating their weight in popcorn while watching me perform.

Every time the horse races around the ring, I'm worried that it's going to gallop into the audience and kill me.

My father announces that the man balancing vases on his head is Korean.

My father announces that the juggling act is performed by Russians, who are twins. He thinks.

I notice that one of the dancers has the hugest balls I've ever seen. (Yes, as in testicles.) Why can't they wear looser costumes? There are children in the audience. Not to mention people with eyes.

The galloping horse looks rabid. I wonder if horses, like dogs, can smell fear.

Oh look!  A pony!

Papa says that he thinks that the pony looks Jewish and for some reason, the orchestra starts playing "Fiddler on the Roof" music. "See? I told you," papa is pleased.

I'm worried that the trapeze artists will fall and I will have to deal with two traumatized kids.

I wonder how many Wii games my kids will require to "feel better".

It's weird how totally ordinary all the trapeze acts seem after the first five minutes.

My palms are sweating because I am certain that the trapeze artists will quadriplegic themselves in front of me and the children.

Why the fuck did I get tickets to this damn firetrap where I will be mauled by a rabid anti-semitic horse while watching death and destruction unfold in front of me?

Oh, that's right. Because I got a "buy one ticket, get one free" coupon.

Totally worth it!

Oh, look! hula hoop! Bouncy ball! Yay! I love the circus! Can't wait for next year!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Erev Christmas!

We have been having many theological conversations at our house.

My daughter made a huge sign that says "CHRISTIANS ROCK!!!" and underneath a parenthetical (Jews too). I live in constant fear that my children will reject my atheist leanings and become religious freaks, so this poster was not reassuring.

When I asked her what's with the Christians rocking so hard, she told me that she'd thought it through and the story of the Resurrection sounds really probable. Whereas she has her doubts about the whole Hannukah miracle. (This reminded me of my parents' friend who whenever he saw a movie would comment with "almost exactly the same thing happened to me!" Especially convincing after watching "The Empire Strikes Back." My parents had friends that probably shouldn't have been around children.) But maybe my daughter is right. I mean, who's ever heard of oil lasting that long, especially in this day and age of climbing prices?!

This morning, when I reminded the kids that after we go to to the circus, they're off to Church with their father and his parents for Christmas Eve service, they decided to convert to Judaism for the night. They assured me that they would be back to the Christian fold by Christmas morning, in time to welcome Santa.

And some crazy people worry that their kids miss the whole Reason for the Season. Not my children. Have a happy whatever you celebrate! (Or as I like to call it, Wednesday.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dear Everyone

Dear Bouncer in Trendy Bar-Type Place That I Don't Usually Go To:

When you ask me for ID and I say "really?", please don't look at my face and say, "oh, you're right, never mind."

Dear Husbandrinka:

When I casually mention "why don't we just all commit mass suicide and get this holiday shit out of the way?", there's no reason to ask if I'm "insane and/or suicidal". It was just a thought. It's like I'm not allowed to have an opinion around here.

Dear 10 year old daughter:

Just because I asked you to make your bed doesn't mean "this is going to be the worst vacation ever!!!!"

Dear 7 year old son:

You really are not getting the PSP-2 game system. No, I'm not just saying that so that you'll be extra surprised on Christmas. And "worsest mom"? Try English, kid.

Dear In-Laws:

Thank you for coming to stay with us for the holidays. Because I am still trying to recover from the time that I flew around Christmas-time nine years ago. And I don't think that my marriage can survive another one of those "God, we Jews are so much smarter than you guys"/"Oh yeah, let's check out flights to Palm Beach around Passover, shall we" discussions with Husbandrinka.

P.S. And thanks in advance for the excellent blog fodder!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Week in Review

(And don’t miss Anymommy’s Week In Review!)

Sunday: I am in recovery from stomach flu and watch I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant. It is a TLC documentary-with-reenactments about four women who didn’t even know that they were pregnant until they were in labor. It is the best thing that I’ve ever seen in my life. Although like any normal judgmental person I assumed that they had Great Stupidity in common, in fact they are totally normal (with the exception of one woman who referred to her period as “my menstrual”).

Monday: I ask my daughter where her gloves are and she says in her pocket and instinctively I say, “oh, and I thought that you were just happy to see me.” She looks confused and I make immediate plans to get an internal editor so that I don’t say everything that comes to my mind.

Tuesday: I tell best friend John that the stomach flu I had may have been just horrible menstrual cramps and he says, “you still get your period?” I overlook this attack on my youth, but he continues, “Maybe you’re going through perimenopause and having extra cramps. I thought every stupid bitch knew that.”

Wednesday: Friend John asks me if I still have my mucous plug.

Thursday: Brad Pitt says that his children don’t ask for expensive gifts because they are not exposed to American materialistic cartoons and that he and his family exchange homemade gifts on Christmas. After my blood pressure returns to normal, I decide that the reasons that they don’t ask for expensive gifts is that they already have everything and that anything short of a continent isn’t considered expensive by their kazillionaire parents. Although if I find out that Angie is making tampon crafts, I will forgive all.

Friday: Snowstorm in NYC. I notice that many tourists around Rockefeller Center walk five across on the sidewalk, stop short to look at tall buildings and are generally a fucking pain in the ass. Rethink my plan to be the NYC tourism ambassador.

Saturday: Acquaintance John and his friend and my faithful blog reader-but-not-commenter David write "The Twelve Gays of Christmas" for this blog. I have to patiently explain to them that the refrain "and a gerbil up Richard Gere's ass" is offensive, as my blog has a more wholesome, religious bent.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Time Has Come

I don't know about you, but I think that whoever came up with the term "mucus plug" needs to be tried as a war criminal and possibly deported. Because that name just sucks. And I think that the time has come for a new, revamped name. I mean if the luxurious sounding chlamydia is a name for a venereal disease, shouldn't something that is part of the miracle of birth have a lovelier term attached to it? Or at least a less nauseating one?

I propose laboria.

The bonus is that it sounds like labia, so when a woman says "I lost my laboria," there is always a slight and exciting possibility that someone will misunderstand and think that she is missing genitals. I see this as a win-win proposition. And possibly my qualification for the Nobel Prize in Language Development.

Yeah, I know. Not all blog posts are created equal.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Holiday Classic

Today is the final day of my blog post exchange with Wendi and Jessica. I'll miss them! Our topic for this week was The Holidays. It's too complicated to explain why. My post is on Bern This, Jessica's blog. And here is Wendi's!


By Wendi Aarons

Step 1: Mix together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, shortening, butter, sugar and molasses. If out of an ingredient, OK to substitute packets of Splenda stolen from Starbucks.

Step 2: While dough refrigerates for 1 hour, clean kitchen and/or watch "The Real Housewives of Orange County" to see what that cougar Tami is up to this week. Wonder what it's like to have an immobile top lip.

Step 3: Roll out dough on lightly floured surface. After 20 minutes, finally understand why hillbilly women hit people with rolling pins.

Step 4: Press rolled dough into non-stick Gingerman cookie pan bought at Williams-Sonoma for large amount of money. Quickly realize money would have been better spent on prepackaged cookies. Or schnapps. Sigh and say something nasty about that slut Rachel Ray.

Step 5: Place Gingermen in oven and set timer for 8 minutes. Remove from oven as soon as timer dings or kids ask, "Why is there a black cloud in the kitchen, mommy?"

Step 6: While Gingerpeople cool, scoop store-bought frosting into five different bowls. Pour in food coloring and mix. Frosting is now every color of the rainbow. So are fingertips and cashmere socks.

Step 7: Call boys into kitchen and set them loose on decorating Gingermen. Smile at the lovely Christmas memory in the making and hope cookies will be cute enough to bring to the Preschool Mother's Holiday social tomorrow.

Step 8: Take a look at finished Gingerbread Men.

Lose all hope.

Step 9: Clean kitchen for 3 hours, including the ceiling, then tell boys they've made the freakiest batch of Gingerbread Men you've ever seen. But also the best. Sit down in front of roaring fire and bite off heads 'til bedtime.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

There's an Upside to Living in NYC

There's no easy way to break it to you-- Anymommy wrote a post for my blog! If you are not familiar with Is There Any Mommy Out There? I envy you. Because you get to discover her and savor her posts and think of ways that you can thank me for introducing you to her. Would a few small gifts be appropriate or one medium one? Dilemma.
I adore her. She's my best blog friend and I'd be lost in the blogosphere without her.  Her posts are like poetry sometimes. You know, the good kind of poetry, that doesn't rhyme. She has written posts that I am convinced will save lives and she has two qualities that I admire most in people--she is a careful thinker and she's hysterically funny. (Is it me, or does it sound like I'm presenting her with a Lifetime Achievement Award?) And no one writes about bodily functions better than she does. But don't worry, she's not writing about them here. Because my blog is dainty.

I've been stalking Marinka for her hilarious, insightful commentary on life in New York City for months now. Lately, it's been making me a little bitter. Not because I think that if I'm going to live in some backwoods 'city' in Eastern Washington, then no one should be allowed to live in trendy, exciting locations. Okay, I totally think that. I started to make a list of pros for living five hours from a major metropolitan area, like great schools, low cost of living, easy access to Idaho...that's where the list went a little awry.

Seven Things That Would Not Be As Annoying If I Lived In New York City Instead of Spokane, Washington

1) I would not have to teach people geography or proper pronunciation. I am pretty sure that most people over five with a pulse can point to NYC on a map. No one screws up the pronunciation of "New York City." Even if you have an accent or a brain impediment or a tongue kink or something, I can't think of a way to get it wrong. If I have to assist one more Kansan service provider with the pronunciation and location of Spokane, I might plot to destroy Kansas. "City please?" "Spokane." "Is that near Seattle?" "I wish." "I'm sorry?" "No. It's Spokane. S-P-O-K-A-N-E. Spokane." "Spoe - cane?" "No. Spo, rhymes with Moe, can, like tin can. Spokane." "Spoe-can-y." "No. It's not like Tuscany, that would be in Italy, which would be marginally cool. It's Spokane. In Eastern Washington." "Is that near Seattle?" "Yes, right outside of Tacoma."

2) I am fairly certain that no point in New York City is fifteen minutes from Idaho. If you had sneered in my face, ten years ago, something like "oh yeah, well when you get old and have kids, you're going to live fifteen minutes from Idaho," I might have hit you across the face with my fancy, D.C. lawyer briefcase. I have lived fifteen minutes from Reagan National. An hour from London by train. Even three hours flight from Japan. Fifteen minutes by minivan from Northern Idaho seems cruelly anticlimactic.

3) I would not have been an unwilling participant in the Great Hanukkah '07 Fiasco. I'm willing to bet that most people in New York City have at least heard of Hanukkah and that it's fairly easy to find Hanukkah candles. Last year, searching in vain for Hanukkah candles a few hours before sundown on the first day of Hanukkah, I stumbled into a World Market. I was fooled by the crafty words 'World' and 'Market' implying they might market goods from around the world. Not so. "I'm looking for Hanukkah candles." World Market Girl: "What?" Me: "Hanukah candles, the Jewish holiday? It starts today. With menorahs?" WMG: "Oh, we don't do that here." Me: ? That? Candles? Diversity? Jewish people? All of the above? I had to leave quietly, because, from what I've observed, she's kind of right. They don't do much of that in Spokane.

4) In NYC, it would not be a five hour drive to decent shopping, real grocery stores, bagels or lox, real pizza, a Chinese restaurant without neon lights where the food is actually cooked by people who either are Chinese or have eaten actual Chinese food in the past, or a real airport. By real airport I mean the same lovely, clueless woman does not print your boarding pass and then run through security to meet you at the gate as your gate check person.

5) People in New York City would not bless me. I don't think they would care about me enough to bless me. I mean that in a good way. I don't mind the occasional post-sneeze bless you, but in Spokane, the blessings are out of control. My kids stand out. They're all different colors and one of them doesn't look much like me, seeing as she's Haitian and I'm descended from eastern European Jews. Random people on the street will just bust out with a smile and a 'bless you.' It makes me squirm. I'm not particularly altruistic and good evades me. We wanted a child. For the right reasons, to love and cherish and raise, etc., not for slave labor or anything horrid like that, but still, it was purely selfish. We wanted a child, we adopted. I think New Yorkers would be far more realistic about the situation. They'd be thinking, get your horrendous gaggle of toddlers out of my bagel store, you bizarre child collecting crazy woman. Not, 'bless you.' Those are sentiments I understand.

6) A New Yorker would never, ever ask me if my three-year-olds were twins. COME ON Spokanitians. My daughter is Haitian. My son is the spitting image of his Scottish/Irish/American mishmash father complete with bright red hair and skin that is the fairest of them all. NO, they are not twins. And, you can stop worrying, two white parents cannot spontaneously spit out a dark brown baby. Surely, the worldly, diverse denizens of NYC would understand this basic genetic concept. If I lived in New York City, I could stop collecting my list of sarcastic responses to the 'are they twins' question. I've never used any of them, I mostly hide my nasty, east coast lawyer side in Spokane. It's not worth it. Sarcasm is wasted on these people and it's kind of like beating a litter of kittens with their paws tied behind their backs. One day I'll bust out with one of my favorites. "Yes, I was a huge slut when they were conceived. They have two different fathers." Or, maybe, "yes, I ate a lot of Oreos when I was pregnant."

7) If we lived in New York City, I would not have to hide at Marinka's blog to list my annoyances with life in my city. My husband's head would explode if he knew I had divulged our home city on the internet. He's convinced that if I give up that information, we'll be immediately stalked by psycho internet people. And, we're not that hard to find, seeing as everyone in Spokane recognizes our house by description. Just guessing here, but there are probably more than ten or so bloggers from New York City. I live in New York City really doesn't tell you much. In the apartment building. With the canopy. Yeah, you and 8 million other people. I'd like to be one of eight million again. Some day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Facial

You know how sometimes you’ll be watching an infomercial and suddenly you'll be really grateful that you are not a paraplegic and can reach for the remote control and change the channel because although at first it was kind of fun to watch someone trying to sell you a pan that makes heart shaped pancakes, after ten minutes of that crap the bloom is off the rose and it has turned into a type of torture that not even the Bush administration would condone?

That’s what facials are like for me, except you can’t turn off the fucking infomercial and have to instead lay there with steam beating down on your face, while the esthetician tells you that you need things like lotions with vitamin A and C, Privage cream made with something that is used in organ transplants (I KNOW!) and some other shit that fights stress and the environment. I lay totally still and make “mmhm” noises that can signify anything from “ring me up!” to “shut the fuck up, please." Every time that I have a facial, I forget that it is basically an infomercial for all their products, with some steam thrown in.

But first, I had some stress. Russian Olga led me into the facial room and I set my bag on the floor and she said, "No, no, no!" as though I had just taken out a machete, and she grabbed my purse from the floor and put it on the chair.
"They say that you should never put your purse on the floor, because that means that you won't have money," she admonished me. I didn't bother asking who "they" were, I am well schooled in Russian superstitions. For the uninitiated and the unmedicated, basically anything that you routinely do in your daily life is rooted in some superstition that you will give you bad luck, no money and have you dead by dawn. I don't know why none of these Russian geniuses realized that they didn't have money because they were living in a fucking Communist country and not because their purse was on the floor, but whatever.

My purse secured on a chair, thereby guaranteeing my prosperity and Olga says, "Take off your top and I will give you a relaxing shoulder massage. You can also take off your jeans, whatever relaxes you most. Just lie down on the table, under the blankets." And she leaves the room.

I don't know about you, but what relaxes me most is people not telling me to take off my top. But I also obey authority, so I take off my sweater, and of course I'm now freezing, so I burrow under the blankets and pull them up to my chin in case they have a special on mummification or something. So Olga comes back and I make an oath to myself--I will not spend a penny beyond the gift certificate, I will not buy anything at all, and she inspects my skin and says, "Your skin is dry.  You need super moisture facial, it's $20 extra" and I say, "ok!"  I am hoping that the extra moisturizing facial comes with the complimentary scrubbing off of the word "sucker" from my forehead.

Olga tells me that I will soon be so comfortable that I will be asleep.

Apparently, I look like one of those people who enjoys having conversations in my sleep, because as soon as my extra twenty dollar facial begins, Olga has some diagnostic questions for me. Like what do I use on my face? I feel good about my "Oil of Olay" answer because my dermatologist and Consumer Reports are behind it, but I have a feeling that Olga would react better if I told her that I have acid thrown on my face routinely.  She tells me that it's a terrible choice and that I need to invest more in my skin.

The facial itself is very pleasant, but the hard sell continues, "You know, you have to take care of your skin," Olga tells me.  "Because you only have one skin."  This is why I could never sell anything to anyone.  Because as soon as I saw something like, "tell customer that she only has one skin," I'd be immediately signing up for welfare.

* * *

Confession:  I can't figure out how to end this post without making it epic length,  so I will do a quick and fake Q&A:

Q:  Did Russian Olga ever ask you if you spoke Russian?
A:  No, she did not, thankfully.

Q: Did you buy any of the products that she recommended?
A:  No.  She recommended two things that I absolutely needed for my one and only skin, each one cost over $120.  I said that I couldn't do it in this economy.

Q: Did you tip?
A: I did!

Q:  Why didn't you just tell her that you preferred not to be sales pitched during the facial?
A:  Because I was afraid that she would kill me.

Q:  Is there anyone in the whole world who is more wonderful than you are?
A:  Of course, many people!  Although they're probably not as modest as I am.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Gift Certificate

So your mother gives you a holiday present of gift certificate for a spa day of beauty and says, “take care of those pores of yours” and you put it away and forget about it for ten months at which point she asks you about whether you’d gotten a facial yet and you admit that you haven’t and she asks if you’re planning on waiting until the gift certificate expires and you say “no, of course not” although you have no fucking idea where the gift certificate is but at that moment you resolve to go out and buy yourself a new gift certificate rather than admit that you lost the one that your mother gave you. But then you panic because you remember that your mother is a regular at the salon and certainly she has spies who will tell her that you came in with a different gift certificate. You also panic because you suspect that you are coming down with a mild case of paranoid schizophrenia.

Through the miracle of divine intervention, you locate the gift certificate and call to make an appointment for a relaxing day of beauty and the booking agent is soothing and friendly and then she asks for your credit card number and you explain that there is no need for that because you have a gift certificate and she says that there is no way to make an appointment without a credit card and that it is for your own protection because if you forget the gift certificate on the day of your services, they can charge your credit card and then they will reimburse you when you bring in the gift certificate the next day. So you ask why can’t you just pay with a credit card when you come in, if you did in fact forget the gift certificate, and the answer is because you are suddenly Alzheimers-enriched and have not only forgotten the gift certificate but your credit cards and your entire wallet and are just wandering around the city aimlessly and through sheer fortune happen to come into the salon at the exact moment that you have your appointment. Normally, they would have to deny you service, but since they already have your credit card on file, there is no problem whatsoever. You realize that you are incredibly lucky to have these people looking out for you.

You arrive at the salon on a Saturday afternoon, and prepare to relax. While you are waiting, you are asked to fill out a medical condition form, where you have to disclose every anti-psychotic pill that you take. You decide not to divulge this information, in keeping with a recent resolution to lie as much as possible about everything, although in the "other things about you that we should know" you write down that you are claustrophobic and don't like those little sweaters with huge buttons that you see everyone wearing.   

Many estheticians walk around the salon in white coats, as though they are coming in and out of surgery and you say a silent prayer that you don't get a Russian-speaking one. Because, and you hate to sound all prejudiced and self-loathing but Russians are a huge pain in the ass and as soon as they hear your name, they ask if you speak Russian and if you confess that you do, they will regale you with many questions, the gist of which seems to come down to, "how come you can afford to come here and I have to scrub your feet, I have two PhDs from University of Odessa, you putrid whore."  You remember the one and only time that you were getting at pedicure at a salon at Saks and a trophy wife was getting a manicure next to you and she had the nerve to tell her Russian manicurist, "I just don't know anymore. I used to have such clear goals, but now I'm not sure whether to get emeralds for Christmas or a fur," and the manicurist said, "Emeralds for Christmas and fur because you deserve to be warm," and the trophy squealed with the same enthusiasm that will greet the end of terrorism and the deep recession, if they happen on the same day.  Then when trophy got up, the manicurist said to her co-manicurists, in Russian, "check out this one, girls."

You look around the waiting lounge and note with satisfaction that no one seems to be suffering from anorexia.  
Then you hear your name called.
"Marinka? I am Russian Olga.  Time for your facial."

To be continued.  Maybe.  

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Week in Review

Monday:  I get a copy of my college Alum Bulletin and read this from one of my former classmates:  "I'm right where I want to be in life, with a great husband, a relaxing view of the Seine from our living room, and intellectual hobbies."  Panic that I don't have any intellectual hobbies, that Husbandrinka isn't as great as her husband, that I have a relaxing view of where the Twin Towers once stood, reminding me of the worst terrorist act in history on  a daily basis.

Tuesday:  See commercial for Sean John's "I am King" perfume. Be unable to stop laughing.

Wednesday: Oprah announces that she's 200 pounds and Kelly Ripa says that all of us can relate to Oprah. I make an emergency appointment to get my hearing checked.

Thursday: Argue with Husbandrinka and insist that Sarah Silverman is not "over the top and ridiculous." Force him to watch an episode of her show. Unfortunately, it's the week that she decides to marry her dog.

Friday: Feel queasy.

Saturday: Continue feeling queasy and tell John that I hope it's not morning sickness because I'm not in the mood to get an abortion. John shocks by saying, "I'm against abortion." He feels that abortions are unfriendly and also says, "I love life, Marinka. Love it. Love everything about it."

Sunday: Stomach flu seems to be passing, but please not a word to Husbandrinka, because I am still milking it.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Husbandrinka Capped Me!

A few weeks ago I got an email from my husband. Something about financial documents that I was supposed to have delivered to some bank person while he was away and now they're missing and some vague reference to financial ruin and COULD YOU FIND OUT WHO SIGNED FOR THE PACKAGE BECAUSE I DIDN'T MAKE A COPY AND CAN'T DEAL WITH THIS.

Yes, he actually all capped me in the email. Why doesn't he just pour kerosene on me while I'm asleep and light the match?

A few minutes later, I got a follow up email from him that never mind, it was some other documents that the bank was missing. But it was too late. Because as soon as I read the FIRST EMAIL I immediately replied by notifying him that effective immediately, he was on email probation.

"What does that mean?" he emailed back.
I had to temporarily lift the email probation to explain, "It means that you are no longer allowed to email me."
And then he didn't respond. It almost killed me because I imagined him sitting at his desk, head in his hands, swaying back and forth, saying, "why? WHY?" and berating himself for sending THAT EMAIL. I hoped that the good people in his office were keeping an eye on him, so that if he became truly despondent, they would intervene and call for help. And also that while they were keeping an eye on him for the sake of his safety, that they were recording him so that I could enjoy a screening at some point.

It was a little awkward when he got home that night.
"How did you survive?" I asked.

"Survive what?" he asked.
"Email probation."
"What's email probation?"
"Oh. I didn't read your email."
"I was busy."

"I had to work. Why was I on email probation?"
Email probation is now over because I have a big heart and couldn't let him suffer like this. Besides, everyone else I know has already blocked my email.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Never Forget. Really, NEVER

Today's post is a real treat. Jessica Bern contemplates her mortality and lets us know what we should do if the unthinkable happens. I'm getting a little misty eyed just thinking about it!

Enjoy! And when you're done enjoying and leaving a comment, check out my post at Wendi's blog!

I get the Sunday New York Times every week and one of my favorite parts to read is the obituaries. I used to do it out of morbid curiosity but now that I am zooming towards death getting on in years, I treat them more like another version of Facebook, only here their daily status remains pretty much static.

The other day, one particular obituary caught my eye because this gentleman's last wishes were that there be no funeral, no memorial, nothing. He just wanted people to get on with their lives and every now and then send him a "shout out" just to let him know they were doing okay.

This, of course, got me thinking that perhaps there was no time better than the present to put in writing my last wishes, especially because I live in Los Angeles, a city where bad people drive good cars and think nothing of killing you or at least your career for the sole purpose of getting their child into an elite pre-school. That being said and without further ado, I present to you:


Right when you hear the news that I’m gone, it would be great if the first words out of your mouth were NONE because you are so shocked that a woman like me, with such a huge heart, so funny, no wait, I want funny first, no matter what you say about me, from the moment you are notified that I am deceased, “funny” must be the first adjective you use to describe me. Huge heart and incredible mother would be a good second and third, although I’ll let you decide in which order you’d like to say them. Probably best to use the “incredible mother” around my couple friends. The single ones would likely prefer and relate more to the “huge heart” factor, but again, it’s up to you. I don't want to seem controlling.

After the shock wears off, I say, let the tears begin. I would like feelings of immense sadness and loss to overcome you to the point where some of you might want to reconnect with your therapists to make a special appointment or if you already have one, move it up a day or two because, "this just can’t wait."

Breakdowns in the middle of places like Trader Joes or, even better, a new hip restaurant, would be so much appreciated, I can’t even begin to tell you, primarily because I'll no longer be here.

At the funeral, I would like the tears to continue and please, there is to be NO FAINTING ALLOWED. The only thing this would accomplish is your stealing focus and this is MY funeral and if there is one goal here, it is you must not ever lose sight of that.

Being a bit of a clotheshorse, what I'll be wearing is very important to me. In the Jewish religion, it is required that one be buried in a shroud. Being that I'm not a practicing Jew and the only reason I went to high holiday services this year was to find a nice Jewish boy who would sleep with me, I'm going to pass on the shroud and only ask that when dressing me you keep in mind that I'm an Autumn and I tend to feel very sexy whilst wearing one of my many sweater coats.

And finally, every MONTH until infinity, on the number of the day (ie: the 15th) that I left this planet, I would like all my closest friends, acquaintances and anyone I've ever spoken with, to gather together and once again share their fondest memories of me or at the very least, a general statement pertaining to the fact that the world will never be the same without me and then, before going off to live your lives, stand around and admire my enormous collection of stunning Nike workout gear.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tips for Holiday Hair. And Life, in General.

Last weekend I went to the Red Door salon on Fifth Avenue to have some emergency beauty treatments. I'm in the process of writing a post about it, but it will not be ready until Monday, since I have to work out some issues with my therapist, and possibly my probation officer, first.

But while I'm busy doing that, I wanted to share this card that I picked up at the salon. I'm sure that you will agree that it contains important information and that it would be unfair to withhold it from you. It's about something that we tend to overlook during the holiday season. Hair.

Beautiful Holiday Hair Tips. (Now with annotations!)

1. Want to brighten the season? Try additional or lighter highlights around your face.
Or turn the light on.

2. Make a resolution. NO ROOTS showing from now through your New Year's parties.
Do not, under any circumstances, celebrate the Chinese New Year.

3. Transform 'work hair' to 'party hair' by sweeping it up, but no banana clips please!
A steak knife will do nicely instead.

4. Don't make any major cut or color changes at the beginning of the season. It will be a topic at every party.
ew Year's Resolution: Get invited to fewer lame ass parties next year.

5. Schedule hair services way in advance to avoid the holiday 'appointment rush'.
This is also handy in not having to tip the hairdresser extra for the holidays: win-win!

6. Avoid end-of-day color bookings during this exhausting season. If you must be last on your colorist's list...bring chocolates.
Because, you know, coloring hair is sort of like working in the mines and the poor dears are exhausted.

7. If you are going to wear ornaments in your hair, remember that less is more.
And that none is most.

8. Adding whimsical red and green pieces to your holiday hair? Keep them temporary or able to be clipped out. Do not use permanent color.
Also consider decapitation.

9.  Your hair should match the warmth and glow of the season. Color, highlight, gloss, condition your hair (whatever it takes) to ensure it looks rich and shiny.
No matter the cost, have multiple treatments (whatever it takes) and spare no expense. Priorities, people.

So, armed with this information, your hair can have a wonderful holiday. Because that's what the holidays are all about, really--hair.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What It Feels Like For a Girl To Leave The USSR

My parents were in their early 30s when they applied for exit visas to immigrate from the Soviet Union to America. It was the mid 70s and Soviet Jews were enjoying an Exodus, sans Charlton Heston. My father was immediately fired, my mother was denounced by her colleagues as being a traitor to her country and an unfit mother for taking her daughter out of the Motherland and they were facing the prospect of leaving their parents and extended family behind forever.

I had my own problems, however. I knew that in America gum was plentiful and I wasn't sure how to maximize the bragging potential to my gum-deprived for the foreseeable future classmates.

It's hard for me to explain the allure that a single stick of gum had for us back then. I was eight years old and I'm pretty sure that I would have shipped both of my parents off to the Gulog for a pack of Doublemint. I have no idea why the Soviet Union didn't have gum. A Communist plot, perhaps.

My parents' friends who came from trips abroad would bring back gum and I knew no greater joy. One of my very clear memories is sectioning a single stick of gum and dividing it among my friends. Fortunately, I didn't have very many friends, so we each got a decent piece to chew. And by "decent" I mean tiny enough so that we could only chew it with our front teeth. If you've never chewed a piece of gum so small that you had to limit the chewing to your front teeth, you've had a charmed life and no reason to complain about anything ever.

One time I was at the Hermitage with my mother, bored out of my mind and indulging in my favorite fantasy that I was one of the lost Romanoffs (the resemblance is uncanny, especially if you add diamonds) when a foreigner approached me and handed me a pack of Doublemint. He didn't speak Russian and I didn't speak English, although I'm pretty sure he said "It is for you, because no one is more deserving." Children in Russia are not trained to scorn strangers with candy because they have better things to worry about, like famine or freezing to death, so I grabbed it and proceeded to thank him. He nodded. That memory ranks right up there with the birth of my children, except a lot less painful.

I treasured that pack of Doublemint for months. I let my friends, whose numbers started to grow exponentially, look at it, but it never left my hands. A single slice I could pass around, but never the whole pack.

So the idea that I was going to a land where I could walk down the street and buy some gum, and so could everyone else seemed like a fairy tale.

People often ask me what it was like to immigrate to the United States. I know what they want to hear. They want to hear a story of my flight from religious and political prosecution to a land of freedom and opportunity. And it was certainly that. But more than anything, it meant that I could have access to gum. And I would have wandered around the desert for years for that.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

This is Why I Don't Like Adult Games

Generally speaking, when other adults want to play a game, I immediately want to be doing whatever is the opposite of playing a game. And yet, when the parents in my daughter's class wanted to play a "Guess Who?" trivia game at the annual potluck dinner, I was all over it.

The rules were simple. In advance of the dinner, we had to submit a not-widely-known factoid about ourselves to the hostess and she would present the facts, "Who had a walk on part on One Life to Live?"and the rest of us would try to guess which of the other parents it was. A friendly get-to-know-interesting things about you game.

I came up with Husbandrinka's factoid right away ("Who's married to the most wonderful woman in the world?") but he cruelly rejected it, no doubt not wanting to draw jealous attention to his good fortune. My second choice for him was a winner--who was recruited by the KGB and the CIA the same year? (Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? And yet, most of you opted to do a Q&A with John. Don't worry, you will soon know exactly how many sweaters he owns.)

I couldn't come up with a fun factoid for myself, though, not because there weren't any, but because I'd already bragged about everything interesting about me to all the other moms within ten minutes of meeting them.

"Is it possible that I have nothing exciting to share?" I asked Husbandrinka.
"Probably," he said.
"There must be something," I was hopeful.
"Well, why don't you milk something about Russia? " He asked, reminding me of my Motherland from which I was so cruelly ripped. And speaking of cruelly ripped, I thought of something that was cruelly ripped from me--my tonsils.

When I was six years old, I had my tonsils removed. Behind the Iron Curtain, in the former Soviet Union.
"I got it!" I said as I ran to send an email to our hostess.

"I had my tonsils removed without anesthesia! xox P.S. Will there be enough wine at the potluck? I don't want The Last Supper Redux." After I pressed "send", I had a crisis. "Hey," I asked Husbandrinka, "was the Last Supper the one where everyone was supposed to bring some wine, but people brought water instead thinking that when it was added to other wine no one would be able to tell that they brought water, except everyone brought water?"
"No," he said, which was really bad news for me, although not for the Last Supper guests. Except if you count Jesus, I guess.

I can't remember how many tries it took for someone to figure out at the potluck that I was the tonsillectomy victim but I will never forget the emotional embrace that I got from everyone.

How you must have suffered.
Those Soviets were savages.
Tell us everything that you remember, for your factoid is more interesting than anyone else's.

I did remember things. I remembered being in an old hospital, sharing a large room with six adult women, most of whom were there for gynecological procedures. I remember sitting across from a doctor who told me to open my mouth and reached with a scalpel down my throat. I remember watching, my head tilted back, her white doctor's coat collar get splattered with my blood to form a shape that I would later recognize in an O'Keefe poppy.

I shared all these memories with my captive audience. Suddenly the fact that Husbandrinka had been recruited by competing superpowers seemed very "whatever". I was the hero. While I was basking in my own bravery, something nagged at me, but I couldn't quite place it, perhaps because I was drunk on the toxic mixture of my own heroism and wine.

As we left the dinner party, I stepped into the elevator and as I waved a fond farewell to my adoring public, I hit my elbow against the door.

"MOTHERFUCKER!" I screamed, grabbing my elbow and doubling over. "Good Lord, who the fuck puts a cocksucking elevator door so close to the elevator?!"
Husbandrinka may have rolled his eyes.
"I am in agony," I said. "I think my elbow is broken. We should go to the ER."
"Your elbow isn't broken."
"I am dying."
"You bumped your elbow," he said. "Amazing how you could endure a scalpel down your throat, and yet grazing your elbow is an international incident."

And then it came to me.

Although I remembered getting my tonsils out vividly, the one thing that seemed to be missing from my memory was the pain. Huh. As a matter of fact, I seem to recall my throat being numb. Surely it was numb from fear.

"You know," I told Husbandrinka. "I think I may have had some local anesthesia during my tonsillectomy."
"You're kidding, right?"
"Well, who can be sure now, but I don't remember any pain. And I was awake for the procedure, so it's not like I had general anesthesia."
"So you just lied to everyone at the potluck."
"Well, I did get my tonsils out. Do you think people focused on the anesthesia part?"

This is why I don't like playing games. And why I think that my daughter may need to change schools.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pinch Me

Today I have two awesome guest posters. Jessica from Bern This and Wendi Aarons from They're Not All Gems.  We thought that it would be fun if we each wrote a post about living in Austin, Los Angeles and New York.  Because I live in  NYC, I got that one.  Their fantastic posts are below.  Mine is at their blogs.  

The first time that I went to Jessica's blog, I kept looking over at her picture because she is much too beautiful to be so fucking funny. There's got to be some kind of rule--either pretty or funny. Or sort of pretty and kind of funny, but not full blast both. Because what fun is that for the rest of us? Except those of us with eyes, and a sense of humor, that is. It's great fun for us.
Her post about shopping at the Gap is priceless.


Want to know of a great way to commit suicide in Los Angeles? Try standing in an empty parking spot along the side of a busy thoroughfare, lined with restaurants, at the heart of rush hour and refuse to move, no matter what.

You want a nice way to raise your blood pressure? Stand in said parking spot for over TEN MINUTES while a variety of people try to back into the space while you yell out, "you wanna park here? Fine, but you're going to have to run me over first!"

You want to know how many people in Los Angeles care when you tell them you're holding the spot because you're trying to help out a friend with two small children? ZERO.

You want to know how many people in Los Angeles care when you switch your reason to "a friend with two small children and advanced Multiple Sclerosis?" because you are now becoming afraid that the whole "then you're going to have to run me over" line is becoming less of a threat and more of an impending reality? ZERO

This really happened to me the other day.

First there was the gal in the Jeep Cherokee. She didn't put up much of a fight, I'll grant you, but did take a moment to call me a stupid c&$*t before driving away, all without ever getting off her cell phone.

Then there was the man, who pulled up and then just sat at the wheel and glared at me for what felt like forever. I can't tell you exactly what kind of car he was in, but I do remember feeling this rush of joy because I finally came face to face with someone who actually drives a bigger piece of crap than I do.

After that came the old lady in her Jaguar with the handicap sign hanging from her rearview mirror. I honestly told myself that if she started to back in, the spot was hers. This is exactly the type that you read about in the paper, you know the ones who drive through a storefront, killing everyone inside because they could have sworn they'd put the car in reverse.

The best (worst)of them all was the Prius. The car was filled with girls in their twenties. At first the driver slowly backed in and didn't stop until her bumper was a mere couple of feet from me. I only know this because, although I had my back to them and refused to turn around, Phoebe, who was standing on the sidewalk at the time yelled out, "Mommy, they're coming!" I'm guessing, after realizing that my kid was right there, they actually grew a conscience which is why they finally drove away but of course not before tossing a dollar out the window and yelling, "Get a f#&*g babysitter".

"We are the World, We are the Children, We are the ones who make a brighter day so let's start giving....." Yeah, right......

I discovered Wendi's blog this summer and I loved it so much that I just sat in front of my computer waiting for her to post again.  Then someone told me about subscribing to a blogger's feed, which is a good thing because otherwise I'd probably still be sitting there. As opposed to sitting here now.  Wendi's post about her near-Jaws experience is one of my top ten favorite shark posts.

Why Austin by Wendi Aarons, They're Not All Gems

Ten years ago, when Chris and I told our friends in Los Angeles that we were packing up and moving to Austin, Texas, everyone thought we were crazy. “But you don’t know anyone there,” they said. “You’ll miss the ocean,” they said. “Man, are you going to look terrible with big hair or what?” they said. But mostly, what they said, was, “Are you sure you’re doing the right thing? Because moving to Texas is like moving to a whole different country.”

And on that point, they were right.

Our first few years in Austin felt like a vacation in another land. Gone was the huge, hectic energy of L.A. Replacing it was our new home’s laid-back, friendly vibe. We both got great jobs and bought a big house in a quiet, leafy neighborhood. We spent our nights drinking margaritas and watching live music. Now, instead of mountains and beaches, we explored rolling hills and out of the way swimming holes. Instead of salads and sushi, we stuffed ourselves with Tex-Mex and all-you-can eat BBQ. And every time someone smiled at us and drawled, “How all y’all doin’?” we felt charmed down to our toes. I loved our new city like crazy. Until it wasn’t new anymore.

My Texas honeymoon started to wane right after we’d been in town for three years. At that point, I was no longer working at a cool, downtown ad agency, but had become the stay-at-home-mother of a wailing newborn and a balls-to-the-wall toddler. Our once-perfect house had suddenly started having very expensive issues. The only live music I heard on a regular basis was a sucky “Frere Jacques” on a Fisher-Price piano. And if the scorchingly hot summers didn’t exactly kill me, my horrendous allergies to Austin’s cedar trees came close. I had somehow become completely miserable. And Austin, my wonderful Austin, had sadly become nothing more than the place we just happened to live. The bloom was officially off the yellow rose.

But then one Sunday morning, we went to Rudy’s BBQ. (Conveniently located right off of a busy highway, Rudy’s is not only a restaurant, but also a gas station.) (I only wish I were kidding.) We’d become regulars at Rudy’s because Chris and Sam loved the breakfast tacos, but also because, with its plastic tablecloths, hand washing stations and burly men with big, efficient brooms, it was the perfect dining spot for a 2 year-old with the table manners of a famished wildebeest. Right after we stepped in the door that day, Chris went off in search of a plastic tray for our main entrees and I trudged over to the soda fountain to fill up my glamorous 32 oz. plastic cup. I had Jack in his baby carrier in one hand and Sam’s wiggly little arm in the other, but still somehow managed to get it done without spilling. But then, as I looked in vain for a straw, I glanced up at the closed circuit monitor showing live video of men cutting up meat in the kitchen (aka the “Cut Cam”)(again, I wish I were kidding) and I froze. And I thought:
Holy crap. Just where the hell am I?

Was I really eating brunch in a gas station? Had I really just parked our car next to a giant metal bottle of “BBQ Sause”? Was that me, ME, who’d just looked at an economy-sized bag of Doritos at 9 a.m. and actually thought “Oh, baby. Come to Mama”? And had I only a few seconds ago seriously considered wiping my son’s runny nose on my sleeve? What the hell had happened to me? For the love of God, had I somehow become a…a… loser?

As I stood there in full-blown Green Acres/Disney Princess identity crisis, my mind raced like mad, trying to figure out just what, exactly, had brought me to this point. True, when we’d moved from L.A., I’d left behind my job at a movie studio and all of my cool friends. And true, I no longer dressed in normal-sized, stylish clothes and I now ate lunch at The Macaroni Grill instead of The Ivy, but so what? Wasn’t I still sophisticated and worldly? Wasn’t I still the same woman I used to be? Wasn’t I still capable of pronouncing French words? Or had moving to Texas been my downfall? As I looked up at my reflection in the Cut Cam monitor, I saw a horribly pathetic woman, covered in sweatpants, spit-up and babies and holding a tanker ship full of Diet Coke, and suddenly, my eyes filled up with big, salty tears. Yep. The pity-party of the century was in full-swing.

But then, out of the corner of my puffy, weepy eyes, I suddenly saw a little, white object being waved in front of my face. And, blinking back tears, I turned my head slightly and realized that it was the end of a drinking straw. The very straw I’d been trying to find not a minute ago. Not taking my eyes off of it, I carefully put Jack’s carrier down on the ground and lifted my hand to grab at it. Then I took a deep breath, raised my eyes and looked up. And there, on the other end of the straw, was a 6 foot 2, 50 year-old grizzled man in an immaculate cowboy hat. The two of us stood there, in Rudy’s BBQ, for a few seconds, each of us holding our end of the straw and neither of us saying a word. And then this stranger, this man I’d never see again, simply looked into my eyes and gave me a quick nod, then let go and walked away. And that was when I knew. That genuine, kind and simple moment was when I knew. Austin is where I belong.

Reese Witherspoon and Kelly Ripa Chat. Marinka Can't Stop Vomiting.

Last week Reese Witherspoon was a guest on "Live with Regis and Kelly" and let me just get this out of the way--her appeal is completely lost on me. I just don't see it. But you know who sees it? Kelly. Reese comes out to thunderous audience applause and Kelly says "the women cheer for you the way that they cheer for a guy." What does that even mean? I think it means that Kelly is crazy.

And then Regis asks Reese what is on her Christmas list and she reveals that she just bought a farm and that the chickens were running wild and somewhere between Regis, Reese and Kelly it was determined that Reese needed a chicken coop and, Santa, if you're listening, that's what Reese wants, hee hee, ho ho.

The fuck?

I don't know about you, but I like my celebrities down to earth. I've always loved the "They're Just Like Us!" feature in US Weekly where stars are photographed doing every day normal things like grocery shopping, wedgie removing and fatwah issuing. "Buying a farm" is not on that list.

From now on, I want celebrities to answer the what do you want for Christmas question with Britney Spears' Fantasy Midnight perfume body set or anything else that can be purchased from Target or, possibly, Ann Taylor Loft. Because we need to give our economy a boost and it's not going to happen with Reese's Chicken Coop.

And then Reese said how much her kids loved the farm and how they were happy there and that there was no TV or video games there. I was nodding maniacally at this point, thinking that finally, Reese and I have something in common because when we go to my parents' house in upstate New York, there's no TV or video games there either and although the kids seem to love it anyway, I do miss the quality time of plopping them in front of the screen and relaxing while they absorb important media messages.

Except that wasn't where Reese was going with this. Instead in complete disregard and violation of the Mom-code, she and Kelly went into this "our children don't need tv and videos" spiel that made me vomit uncontrollably.

Kelly said how great it was because when they go to the Hamptons, the kids play with sticks and rocks and those are like the best toys. Seriously, did anyone else see this show, because now that I type it out, it seems even more insane. And let me just say that I call bullshit on that. Ok, maybe they poked around with sticks and rocks, but who believes that they are really electronics and manufactured toys-free?

I think that part of being a celebrity mom is making sure that you never say anything that may possibly offend a non-celebrity mom.  Especially if that non-celebrity mom is me.  And if you think that I'm just a bitter hag, I'd like to congratulate you on your good call.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

As God is My Witness, I Will Never Haggle Again.

This is the Breaking News email that I got from CNN yesterday:

-- The Dow closes down about 680 points, as manufacturing hits a 26-year low and the U.S. is declared to be in a recession.

Unpleasant, right? And yet it doesn't terrorize me the way that an article that I read in New York Magazine over the weekend did. It was an article about how to save money and one of the tips was to haggle. At the department store. 
Remember those PETA ads with some seminaked beauty proclaiming, "I'd rather go naked than wear fur"? Well, I'd rather go naked than haggle at Saks and believe me, I'm no supermodel so my threat has some actual power behind it. My favorite part about the New York article was that the writer actually tried haggling at, I think, Saks. This is my paraphrase of the article so that I don't have to exhaust myself with cutting and pasting and linking:

"I like these shoes," she said, "are they going on sale?"
"Is there any way that I can get a discount?"
"Could I pay less for them?"

Perfect. So you go through the humiliation and still don't get the discount? Well, I suppose some people pay extra to be humiliated, so this can be considered a real bargain.

* * *

I am a survivor of childhood haggling.  My parents were big believers. When  I was nine years old, we immigrated from the Soviet Union and lived in Italy for six months.  You may think of Italy as the gastronomic and art capital of the world, but that's because you never lived there with papa. For him, it was Haggling Central.

For example--we would enter the store to buy me a coat. The selection was made, a price was quoted.
"This is not price," my father breathed. "This is anti-semitism in Lire."
I would immediately start praying for a quick death.
"No!" he told the Nazi coat seller, before turning to me: "Walk out of the store as though you are not interested," he commanded in Russian.
"But papa, I need a coat, for I am so cold," I muttered. (This is a complete lie, but I had gelato to eat and I wanted to get the fucking coat and get on with my life already.  Besides what blogger can resist "The Little Matchbook Girl" as we get into the holiday spirit?)

This was repeated many times, because my father was convinced that haggling was part of the Italian culture and that we would be insulting our host country by agreeing the price asked.

You would think that things would have changed once we entered the United States, but you would be wrong. I learned English faster than my parents did so grocery shopping was filled with peril.

"This says that the suggested manufacturer's retail price is $2.99," my mother shoved a gallon of Bryer's ice cream at me. "Go find out how much they want to charge us." And despite my protests, I would have to eventually approach the stereotypically-acned grocery store clerk and ask him. Why not try this fun activity the next time you're at the supermarket? Because the clerk's facial expression is truly priceless when he thinks that you're haggling.  Really, no manufacturer will suggest a retail price for that look.

I'm not done yet!  This is how New York Magazine suggests you go about haggling, and I'm throwing in my annotations, absolutely free of charge!

1. Don’t be ashamed. You can haggle anywhere, anytime—even at the doctor’s office.

I especially recommend haggling right before surgery.  Or right in the middle of it, since you most likely will not be getting anesthesia.

2. Stay cool.
Haggling is about bluffing; if you show weakness or nerves, the salesperson will know you’re going to fold.

Is it me, or do you have to be an Academy-Award caliber actor to pull this shit off?  "I will give you $1 for this bread and not a penny more.  My children are well fed and certainly do not need this loaf for nourishment.  I spit on this bread."

3. Be prepared to leave empty-handed.
If you must have an item, you’ll accept a higher price. Often, walking away will get the absolute lowest offer.

Yes, papa was a big believer in this one.  I'm celebrating thirty years of coatlessness.

4. Use charm.
Haggling is a personal interaction. If you make the sales clerk complicit in the game, he’ll be more willing to play.

"Is that your absolute lowest price?  Because you are so handsome.  And very smart.  I am carrying your child."

5. Pay cash.
The seller will usually knock off the sales tax, or more. But carry small bills.

I think this is called "tax evasion".  Stay tuned for New York Magazine's next feature-- "Plea Bargaining Tips".

6. Do market research.
Almost everyone price-matches these days.

I'm exhausted already.  Isn't it easier to steal this crap?

7. Read the sales tags.
Brazen hagglers will rifle through a rack in search of the one item that’s mispriced low, then demand the store honor the tag.

Also brazen hagglers will work the word "rifle" frequently into conversations with the sales person.

8. Ask when it goes on sale.
The clerk might offer to put it aside for you. Or, if you ask to be called come sale time, it could be marked down then and there, just for you.

At this point, the clerk will do just about anything to get rid of you, I'm guessing.

I don't know, this whole haggling thing is not for me.  Please send cash so that I don't have to do it.  You look nice, by the way.


Monday, December 1, 2008


When my son was in kindergarten, we had school conferences that focused on his drawing ability. It was weak. We were concerned. Well, at least we feigned concern, because we didn’t want to be those parents who don’t give a shit when the school is flagging an issue. But really, who cares? It’s not like my fingers were crossed that my son would become a starving artist or anything. And besides, I was relieved that he wasn't biting his classmates. Anything this side of cannibalism was ok with me.
What I liked about his attitude, however, was that although his drawings sucked, he never relented and kept drawing away.  There's something about beating one's head against the wall that I really admire.  When he presented me with his drawings, and I’m using the term loosely, we had many conversations that went like this:

“This is lovely, thank you.”
“Do you like it?”
“I do.”
“Do you know what it is?”
“Oh, honey, who knows what anything is?  Not me! I’m not into labeling things.”
“It’s a circle.”
"Is it a good circle?”
"Well, yes. It’s a very pointy circle, but that doesn’t make it not good. You like sports, right?”

Recently, however, he had a breakthrough and his drawings improved dramatically. I started to swell with pride (or maybe turkey) imagining many gallery openings that I would be attending, because what mother doesn’t want her son to be a famous artist?

Over Thanksgiving weekend, he created this masterpiece:

It’s a winning Mets guy. Great, right?  Except my mama scrutinized it and said “is he missing a nose or a mouth?” And my son said, “A nose. I don’t draw noses because they make people look stupid. I also don’t do ears.” That’s not weird, right? It’s an artistic choice. And I figure that he could charge extra for those features. Place your orders now, while the getting is good. And if you're anything like me, lack-o-nose is a big plus. And I mean BIG.